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Birmingham reaches deal to end bin strike

Birmingham City Council has withdrawn redundancy notices issued to more than 100 striking refuse workers in a deal that will end the city’s long-running bin strike.

The agreement was reached late on 24 November, avoiding a scheduled High Court battle with the unions on 27 November over the legality of the notices that were issued at the end of August.

Council management had previously argued that continuing to employ these individuals at grade 3 on the council pay scale would leave the authority open to equal pay claims from other employees.

However, Unite claimed the council had acted unlawfully in issuing the notices after former council leader John Clancy had reached agreement at the dispute resolution service Acas that jobs would be safe.

Under the deal, the 113 affected employees will be “assimilated” into a new waste reduction and collection officer role, remaining on the same pay grade but taking on additional responsibilities for increasing recycling. A paper to the cabinet said this would be subject to the individuals in question having the required skills or being able to develop them through training.

The waste service will also move from a four-day to a five-day shift pattern.

The paper said the agreement would save the council £3m, which would enable the setting of a balanced budget. The original proposals for reform of the waste service were intended to save £5.2m. The report also noted that the council would benefit by £1.6m for every 10% increase in recycling rates.

Council leader Ian Ward said: “This has always been about providing an efficient and effective refuse collection service for Birmingham, as that is what citizens rightly expect and deserve from us.

“Neither the council or Unite wanted things to escalate in the way they did, so I am pleased that, through quiet, open and honest dialogue, we have been able to reach a legally sound position, going through the correct governance processes that we must always follow.”

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett described the deal as a victory for common sense. The council will pay the union’s legal costs and the High Court is expected to issue an order to “legally cement the agreement”, Unite said.

The industrial action began in July after the council proposed abolishing the roles. After almost two months of disruption, the then council leader John Clancy reached an agreement with the unions at Acas in late August that did not involve any redundancies. However, the council then issued redundancy notices, claiming the agreement, which senior officers were not involved in, would have left the council open to equal pay claims.

Clancy resigned soon after, admitting he had made “mistakes”.

Commenting on Twitter at the weekend, Clancy said he was “pleased” the “cabinet now backs original ’Clancy Agreement’.”

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